Guest Author - Kass McGann
Whether in movies, television show or online, photos of beautiful historical costumes are always breath-taking. Yet how often are those costumes either Renaissance (16th century) or Georgian/American Colonial (18th century)? What happened to the 17th century? What about the Restoration of the Monarchy? What about all that beautiful Baroque fashion? Surely someone out there in the costuming world is doing that.
The resources for 17th century costuming are scarce, but they are out there. I began my historical costuming career in a Swedish living history group that covered the years 1630-1632 and will be happy to share my favourite references with you. Also recently some new books have been added to the world library by excellent authors and curators of extant 17th century costume.
Additionally, so many costuming book only discuss women's costumes. What about the men?
This is the book that got it all started: Fashion in Detail. This is basically a book of close-up photographs of 17th (and 18th) century garments in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The photos are so artfully taken and so impressive that you will be inspired with every turn of the page. You will want to make everything in this book. You'll wish you could quit your job and dedicate your life to making these costumes. Among my costuming friends, we call this "The Crack Book" because the costumes are so lovely that just looking at the photos is euphoric. It is truly addictive. I've gone through two copies because I turn the pages so often that they eventually fall out!
The only problem with Fashion in Detail is that it doesn't include any patterns or construction details. You have to figure all that out for yourself.
A terrific book was written in the 1960s and is still the best resource for men's 17th century costume: Norah Waugh's Cut of Men's Clothes: 1600-1900
Janet Arnold's famed Patterns of Fashion series began with Patterns of Fashion: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women C1560-1620 which still is a great resource for men's 17th century (as well as 16th century) costuming.
Let's not forget accessories. If you make a beautiful 17th century costume, you have to accessorize! This postumously-released final book in the Patterns of Fashion series gives intimate details about the construction and decoration of many 17th century accessories for men and women -- ruffs, shirts, shifts, caps, et cetera.
These are the best resources for 17th century costuming that I have found. Have a look at Amazon through the links in this article. Or see if your local library has a copy of them. They are wonderful books. Even if you never intend to make 17th century costumes yourself, these books are a treat for the senses.
Here are links to these books on Amazon:
Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Fashion in Detail
The Cut of Men's Clothes: 1600-1900
Note: The books reviewed in this article were purchased by me with my own funds.